20060812

Windows Update

People always wonder why Windows-bashers like myself hate Microsoft so very much. Here's a good reason to start: Windows Update consistently breaks my antivirus program and sometimes my firewall.

Every time I've installed any updates to Windows, either off the website or through the auto-update tool, my copy of Norton Antivirus, which in this case is perfectly legit, breaks. I have a legal version of Windows, a legal version of Norton, and a legal version of ZoneAlarm. There should be no reason at all why a professionally built computer, an inspected Dell refurb, should ever have its anti-virus suddenly just start to fail right after an update. I've reinstalled Norton at least five times in the last month or so.

With Linux, when you install updates, you use something like yum, which checks to make sure that there aren't any conflicts before installing the updates. Updates don't break completely unrelated programs. Likewise with Macs. Updates don't break key programs. But it happens with Windows.

Perhaps the problem is the Dell Refurb. Perhaps the problem is Norton. But I know dozens of people who don't update apart from Service Packs, and have Norton on their Dell Refurbs. They're fine. I also know people who use Linux on their Dell Refurbs. They're fine. For some reason, Windows just isn't smart enough or coordinated enough to avoid breaking something every time it comes in with a fix.

This has happened before: Windows Genuine Advantage prevented my computer from booting entirely. I had to reinstall the OS.

These are the sorts of problems one would expect from Beta software. These are the sorts of problems one would expect from software written by people who don't have a good enough grasp of coding practice to clean up after themselves. Not a well-funded corporation.

There is no excuse for such shoddy workmanship.

20060802

Sprinting away from Service

I'm a sales rep at a major electronics store. I deal with cell phone complaints, TV complaints, radio complaints, and every other type of complaint under the sun. Worst by far are the cell phones.

I just recently had a customer in to upgrade her cell phone. She's a Sprint customer, and has been since 2001. In that time, she's had service interruptions, repetitive dropped calls, undelivered messages, and stonewalling when her phone broke and she attempted to get it replaced under the insurance. Eventually, her contract lapsed. It was a great relief, right until Sprint started calling her to ask her to re-up the agreement. She was a dedicated customer, they said. After much begging and pleading, they listened to her issues, and cajoled her to re-up, promising that she'd be given a $150 dollar credit towards a new phone, and immediately giving her a 5% discount on her $70/mo service.

Fastforward seven months. She's kept meaning to get into my store to get the new phone, but that was December when she called Sprint, and it took a while for stores to open up again here in New Orleans. Finally she comes in, and tells me about her promised service credit. I check the system, and when I can't find it, I call Sprint. They tell me that it expired. The Call Center Rep says that it expired and that there's nothing she can do. The customer asks to speak to her at this point, and I pass the phone over, glad to stop talking to such a Service Rep. Throughout their conversation, the service rep tries "offering" to undo the 5% discount, blaming the customer, and keeps suggesting that the customer sign a new two year agreement, which, considering the service quality, is not on the short list at this point.

Eventually we get a manager, Dan Williams. Dan is a lifesaver, an island of sanity and compassion in a sea of rigid policy. He offers, after some conversation, to try something interesting. I'm to run the upgrade as usual, and then he'll dig into the computer system and cancel the new agreement, so that the old agreement stays in effect. It works, and the customer glows with relief.

Moral of the story? When you have customers paying you $70+ every month, appreciate them. Give every customer your best service, because they're the only reason why you're still here. They can just as easily let their contract lapse and switch to another provider. And thank you Dan Williams, you've cleaned up quite a mess. Hopefully it won't happen again.

20060719

Sony BMG Rootkit Saga

I'm sure that by now some of you have heard of the Sony BMG Rootkit Saga. If not, here's a basic primer:
Sony BMG, a major record label, published a number of music CDs which enclosed the XCP-Aurora software. Said software (which you couldn't effectively avoid installing), was later discovered to be a rootkit. What is a rootkit, you ask? Why, it's a type of software which illicitly gains system-level access to your computer. Admin functions rapidly become available to it. It can, within a short period of time, do nearly anything to your computer, and so can anyone who knows how to manipulate it properly. The one enclosed with the Sony CDs was nearly impossible to remove.

Attempts to remove it resulted in a lawsuit against Sony, leading to a settlement entitling the users to a clean copy of the CD, a check, and three free album downloads in the format and from the source of their choice. Attempts to contact Sony to retrieve such, or to retrieve the cure for the rootkit, proved nearly useless, as Sony was completely unproductive, repeatedly issuing "fixes" which aggravated the problem, as well as harrassing customers to a certain extent. Customer Service certainly was not a highlight of this adventure.

For a detailed account of one customer's experience, go here [Perfect Porridge].

After this, I counsel against buying anything from Sony, least of all music. I do believe they've lost our trust in such matters.

Savvy?

20060718

Welcome

Welcome to A Purposeful Pirate. The purpose of this blog is to take a Pirate's perspective on certain matters of life, ranging from software, to digital security, to current events. Pay attention, because things have been known to move quickly. Do remember, I am doing this for you, the reader. I am tired of certain people and groups abusing you, and so I am sharing what knowledge I have.

Now for the less-fun stuff:

To contact me, email purposefulpirate (at) mailshack (dot) com. If you spam me, I will hurt you. All email correspondence with me will be signed with my OpenPGP Key, which can be looked up on this keyserver (random.sks.keyserver.penguin.de) using my email address.

Comments will be watched. Inanity or otherwise unproductive foolishness that doesn't amuse me will be screened. Excessive non-amusing foolishness will result in a ban. You have been warned.

Also, this may well be a temporary home. Expect changes of location. You will be notified.